SAN DIEGO -- Jerry Rice wasn't having a good day, a 40-year-old receiver losing the battle to a rookie cornerback.
With one catch by the future Hall of Famer, it all changed. Rice beat Quentin Jammer for a 56-yard gain and the momentum was all Oakland's en route to a 27-7 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday that gave the Raiders sole possession of first place in the AFC West.
|Zack Crockett and the Raiders fly past the Chargers on Sunday.(AP)|
"In a game of this magnitude, you want to do something big," Rice said. "I think I was pressing too much. That one really jump-started us."
The Raiders and Chargers came in tied for the division lead, and the Raiders (9-4) turned the showdown into a knockdown, thanks to Rice, quarterback Rich Gannon and a defense that bottled up LaDainian Tomlinson and handed San Diego's Drew Brees his first career three-interception game.
Gannon, who turns 37 on Dec. 20, set an NFL record with his 10th 300-yard game of the season, throwing for 328 yards and breaking a tie with Dan Marino, Warren Moon and Kurt Warner. He was 26-of-41, with no touchdowns and no interceptions, and crossed the 300-yard mark with a 9-yard pass to Rice midway through the fourth quarter.
The two-time division champion Raiders won their fifth straight game and won for the sixth time in seven years in San Diego, where half the crowd of 67,968 was dressed in Raiders silver and black.
"This was definitely one of our best games because no matter what they did out there, no matter what running play, no matter what passing play, we always felt like we were in control," linebacker Bill Romanowski said.
San Diego (8-5) has lost four of six since its 6-1 start.
The Raiders led just 13-7 midway through the third quarter but the game began to change when Brees threw behind Tim Dwight, and Tory James intercepted at the Raiders 13.
Two plays later, on third-and-six, Rice burned Jammer by turning a short pass from Gannon into a 56-yard gain. Jammer, San Diego's first-round draft pick, went for the ball and missed. Rice caught it, turned and raced downfield until safety Rodney Harrison tackled him at the San Diego 27.
Five plays later, Zack Crockett scored on a 1-yard run to give the Raiders some breathing room at 20-7 with 2:12 left in the third quarter.
"The way the defense played today, I felt we had to take advantage of some of the opportunities, and that was one of them," Gannon said.
Chargers linebacker Junior Seau described Oakland's offense as "dink and dunk, and then they hit a big play in the middle on third down. Those things really hurt you."
On the next Oakland drive, Gannon hit Rice for 9 yards on third-and-5 to go over 300 yards and move the ball to the Chargers 23. Tyrone Wheatley scored on a 4-yard run to make it 27-7. Crockett converted two third-and-1 situations on the drive.
Tomlinson was held to 57 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries. He set the Chargers' single-season rushing record with 1,375 yards, eclipsing Natrone Means' 1994 record of 1,350 yards on a 4-yard run up the middle early in the third quarter.
Tomlinson was coming off a team-record 220 yards in a 30-27 overtime win over Denver. On Oct. 20, He ran for 153 yards at Oakland, including a 19-yard touchdown run to win it 27-21 in overtime.
But the Chargers couldn't turn to Tomlinson because they never had control of the game.
"We were outplayed. The Raiders obviously came in ready to play," Tomlinson said.
"Our guys put a lot of hits on No. 21," Oakland coach Bill Callahan said of Tomlinson. "I thought that was one of the deciding factors."
Oakland went ahead 10-0 on Charlie Garner's 4-yard touchdown run and Sebastian Janikowski's 51-yard field goal in the first quarter.
The Chargers pulled to 10-7 when Tomlinson dove over the top of the pile for a 1-yard touchdown with 5:04 left before halftime.
Janikowski was wide left on a 49-yard attempt with 2:24 to go, but then connected from 20 yards out with 13 seconds left on a drive set up by Rod Woodson's interception.
Rice had seven catches for 113 yards. Brees was 22-of-41 for 259 yards and no touchdowns.
"I'm upset when I have games like this," Brees said. "What frustrates me is that some of the picks were bad throws."
- Tomlinson went from having 37 runs and 11 catches against Denver to just 18 rushes and 4 catches.
- The crowd of 67,968 was the second-biggest home crowd in Chargers history. The biggest was 68,274 against Green Bay on Oct. 24, 1999.
The Associated Press News Service
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